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Urban Aboriginal Students At-Promise of Completing High School: A Community's Journey Open Access


Other title
Critical theory
Community voice
Aboriginal education
High school completion
Indigenous researh methodology
Educational policy
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Steele, Loraine K
Supervisor and department
Wallace, Janice, Department of Educational Policy Studies
Examining committee member and department
Spencer, Brenda (Ed Policy Studies)
Jardine, Gail (External Examiner - University of Calgary)
Randolph, Wimmer (Ed Policy Studies)
Weber-Pillwax, Cora (Ed Policy Studies)
Glanfield, Florence (Curriculum)
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Educational Administration and Leadership
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation is based on high school completion being recognized as a public problem in Canada and Alberta since the mid-1960s, and re-surfaced in importance in Alberta during the early 2000s. I questioned how urban Aboriginal students, facing multifaceted challenges in areas of social, economic, judicial, political, health and education realms, fraught with hegemonic power and control issues, can become empowered to complete high school. The main purpose of this study is to engage urban Aboriginal students involved in a stay-in-school program operated by the Aboriginal Youth & Family Well-being & Education Society in four schools in Edmonton to critically examine and identify existing social structures that may marginalize them in completing high school. As urban Aboriginal students become aware, they can identify and gain support systems to challenge the status quo, learn to answer their questions, and become self-empowered to become students at-promise of completing high school. This study used Indigenous research methodology informed by a critical lens for research analysis with a goal of transformative action to liberate urban Aboriginal students and enhance their support systems. Critical theory provides an epistemology for addressing issues that exercise hegemonic control, through power blocs of racism, classism and sexism, and dominant forms of knowledge, to result in an ultimate shift in social inequality. Critical pedagogy points to solutions for students to become empowered, as well as for the development of educational policies and practices that create enabling conditions for urban Aboriginal students to complete high school. The methodology utilized was a holistic approach to research based on the four directions of the Medicine Wheel of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional dimensions, in which the knowledge of all involved in the research experience was valued. Talking circles and individual interviews were methods utilized to gather qualitative data through the research questions posed on barriers and solutions to high school completion, responding to issues of power and control. Indigenous protocols were adhered to in gathering data by celebrating cultural practices, building trust relationships and respecting all perspectives. The data collected were compared to other literature sources through a critical theory lens. A melding of voices for educational policy and promising practices emerged to enable high school completion of urban Aboriginal students. The learnings from this study may be developed into educational policies and practices to support Aboriginal students to complete high school. Also, parents, Elders and Aboriginal communities can become a strong supportive voice in the education of their children.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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